Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wednesday Travel Notes

Returning home from London today, to reunite with The Incomparable Eddie©.


Regular music related postings resume tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

England Swings (And Apparently Too Damn Much)

Had high tea at Fortnum and Mason in London today.


BTW, it’s true — the Brits are polite to a fault. Unfortunately, given the number of them who bumped into me on the street on the way there, they’re also blind as bats.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Monday Shameless Filler

Checked out the Linda McCartney photo exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert museum yesterday, and chanced across this fabulous pic of The Yardbirds circa 1968.


Hey sorry — that’s all I got today.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Weekend Listomnia: Special The Horn Blows at Midnight Edition

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental fille-de-whoopie Fah Lo Suee and I are off to beautiful Mar-a-Lago(fuck yourself) to spray paint graffiti on the wall separating the President from the special counsel's investigators.

Okay, I made that up -- actually, a certain Shady Dame and I will be winging our way to London for a four day weekend, during which time -- seriously -- we will be taking in an exhibit of Linda McCartney's photographs and seeing a performance of the smash musical Hamilton. Could be a hot one, as I'm wont to say.

But in the meantime, here's a fun project for you all:

BEST OR WORST USE OF A HORN SECTION ON A POP/ROCK/SOUL RECORD!

No arbitrary rules at all, although remember, I'm talking horn section, not solo horns, so don't give me any of that Junior Walker shit. Also, I'd prefer it if the name Chicago did not enter into the festivities.

Okay, my totally top of my head Top Five:

5. Elvis Presley -- Trouble



As seen and heard in King Creole. Directed by Michael (Casablanca) Curtiz, of all people. I don't know who did the horn charts (Leiber and Stoller wrote the song, of course) but man, they kick some serious ass.

4. Otis Redding -- Can't Turn You Loose



Even the Blues Brothers couldn't spoil that arrangement.

3. Bruce Springsteen -- Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out



Arrangement by the lovely and talented Little Steven, who should be immortal for this alone..

2. The Rolling Stones -- Rocks Offf



"The sunshine bores the daylights out of me." No better lyric has ever been written. Also, the horn arrangements on Exile are pretty stellar throughtout.

And the number one horn arrangement of all time, it's not even close, self-evidently is...

1. The Beatles -- Got to Get You Into My Life



Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!








Thursday, January 17, 2019

An Early Clue to the New Direction



A coveted PowerPop© No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who gleans the relevance of the above clip to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Closed for Monkey Business


Well, actually insanely busy with preparations for our upcoming four day jaunt to London.

But have no fear, while we're gone Weekend Listomania will make another triumphant return.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Sing Along With Comrade Trump

From 2018, Brit comic Bill Bailey discovers that in a minor key, "The Star Spangled Banner" sounds Russian.



That guy's new to me, but he's kinda reminiscent of a Victor Borge for the current century. I particularly liked his description of a major key version of "Für Elise" as sounding like "a Bavarian milking song."

Monday, January 14, 2019

My Monday Moment of Why Didn't I Get the Memo?

From 2001, please enjoy Jimmy Eat World and the goddamned cutest power pop confection I've heard in ages, and why did I not hear it before last Saturday?



As I mentioned last week, I'd never really paid attention to those guys, but one of my youthful friends, who's also my Saturday afternoon bartender, was playing a bunch of their stuff at my local watering hole two weekends ago and my ears pricked up. The song above? God, it's terrific -- some of those answering chorus vocals are sheer genius.

Thanks, Dan!!!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Return of Weekend Listomania: Special Dave "Baby" Cortez Lives! Edition

[I first posted this in 2008, back when this blog and the world were young. As is my wont, I have re-written parts of it and deleted/added a couple of the entries, just so you don't think I'm the slacker I actually am. Enjoy! -- S.S.]

So -- here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

BEST ORGAN LICKS ON A POST-ELVIS POP/ROCK RECORD !!!!!!

And by "best" we mean the most melodic, the most effective, or the most inventive. It can be a solo, an entire part as played through the length of a song, or simply a riff -- whatever gets you off.

And just to belabor the obvious, we said "organ." No pianos, clavinets or synths need apply. You heard me. And in the interests of common sense, I do hope you'll have the good breeding not to nominate anything by Yes.

Okay, that said, here's my totally top of my head Top Thirteen, with credits for the fine folks who actually play the organ parts appended.

13. The Young Rascals -- Good Lovin' (Felix Cavaliere)



The first rock organ solo I ever learned how to play. And still the most fun.

12. Janis Ian -- Society's Child (can't find the musician credits for this track -- anybody have the CD?)



"That arrogant organ." -- Leonard Bernstein.

11. Booker T. and the MGs -- Time is Tight (Booker T. Jones)



Get me drunk and I'll actually claim that this is one of the best short pieces of instrumental music, in any genre, written in the second half of the 20th century.

10. The Beatles -- We Can Work It Out (John Lennon)



That's John on harmonium, of course, which is a primitive form of pump organ so don't give me any crap. In any case, this may be the most perfect early Beatle record, largely due to those organ swells adding color and texture during the verses. And the out of nowhere liturgical riff at the end, of course.

9. A tie:

The Animals -- Boom Boom (Alan Price)



The Alan Price Set -- I Put a Spell On You (Alan Price, natch)



Price is kind of a household name in England; in this country, alas, less so. But if there was a more soulful keyboard guy and singer tossed up on the shores of the British Invasion, I can't think of him.

8. Spencer Davis Group -- I'm a Man (Stevie Winwood)



Well, maybe Stevie.

7. Brinsley Schwarz -- Surrender to the Rhythm (Bob Andrews)



This clip simply slays me. Astoundingly lyrical organ work; the young Nick Lowe wrote the damn thing and is trying hard to be the focus of attention here, but Andrews absolutely steals it.

6. Another tie --

? and the Mysterians -- 96 Tears (Frank Rodriguez)



and

Sir Douglas Quintet -- She's About a Mover (Augie Meyers)



Genuis simplicity or moronic mindlessness? YOU make the call!! Seriously -- the cheesy 60s organ sound that pretty much defines pop retro begins here.

5. Another tie --

Bob Dylan -- Like a Rolling Stone (Al Kooper)



and

Elvis Costello and the Attractions -- Pump It Up (Steve Nieve)



Kooper invents the quicksilver 60s folk rock keyboard sound in the former, Nieve updates it for the immediate post-punk era in the latter.

4. The Zombies -- Time of the Season (Rod Argent)



Argent's playing here is dazzling, of course, but the decision to overdub a second solo on top of the first one on the fadeout was sheer genius.

3. Procol Harum -- Pilgrim's Progress (Matthew Fischer)



Like "Layla," this is a song with a lengthy, seemingly unrelated instrumental coda appended from out of the blue. Unlike "Layla," this one has no guitar histrionics whatsoever, and yet it's just as gorgeous. Remarkable.

2. Alabama 3 -- Woke Up This Morning (Orlando Harrison)



This is possibly the simplest organ lick ever recorded -- really, I could teach my cat to play it in five minutes -- and yet damned if it doesn't work in the context of the everything but the kitchen sink stuff these guys surround it with.

And the number one coolest, it's not even a contest for crissakes, organ grinding on a pop/rock record of all time is indisputably ---

1. Oh crap, it's another tie!!!

The Band -- Chest Fever (Garth Hudson)



and

The Call -- The Walls Came Down (Garth Hudson)



The Mad Professor at his maddest and grandest. And it is perhaps no accident that both these songs, as lyrically different as they are, have magnificently primal hard rock riffs at their core.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1966, please enjoy the (then) Young Rascals and their kick-ass hit "Come On Up."



A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who identifies its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me

Big deal astrophysicist(!) Brian May CBE [left], some American guy [center], and dapper Queen drummer Roger Taylor (looking like an actor in a British-in-India Hollywood flick from the 1930s) [right] pose with their Golden Globe awards for Bohemian Rhapsody last Sunday.


I can't tell you how much this tickles me.

And as for Brian May -- can I just say, and for the record, that nobody in human history has ever had as cool a second act? Thank you.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Is It a Good Day for The Music Machine?

Heck, it's ALWAYS a good day for The Music Machine.



That was the 1966 follow-up to the immortal "Talk Talk"; it wasn't as big a hit, although I always thought it should have been, and it got respectable airplay in the New York City area as I recall. In fact, I actually owned the single version, which I bought, proudly, at the Sam Goody store in the Paramus mall.


Apart from being a terrific song, the musicianship and sound on that is really stellar for the period; MM bassist Keith Olsen went on to a huge career behind the recording console, and was responsible for, among other fine audio products, the eponymous 1975 Fleetwood Mac album you might be familiar with.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Will Our Mystery Guest Enter and Sign In Please?

From 2016, please enjoy Jimmy Eat World and their quite ragingly beautiful "It Matters."



I've never really paid attention to those guys before, and the reason I bring them up now is because one of my youthful friends, who's also my Saturday afternoon bartender, was playing the album that song is from at work last weekend, and when the chorus came on it instantly reminded me of another song hit -- probably from the 80s -- that I could not and still can't readily remember the title of, or the band that did it.


Obviously, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who figures it out.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Joey the Icon

I have to say it -- if you had told me in 1979 that four decades later I would be seeing teenage kids walking down the street wearing CBGS/Ramones t-shirts or buying other Joey related stuff...


...I would have told you that you were huffing drugs more potent than either of us could have imagined.

In the meantime, please enjoy power pop legend (and friend of The Floor Models) Marc Jonson and his fabulous new song "MY GIRLFRIEND (Doesn't Like the Ramones").



Words fail me, obviously. And have I mentioned that there's a street in Manhattan named after Joey?

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Dean Ford 1946-2018

The Marmalade lead singer responsible for the wonderful "Reflections of My Life" has passed.

But I'd forgotten that he was also responsible for this classic, which no less an authority than Jimi Hendrix praised as the best single of 1967.



A special PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded the first reader who identifies the TV commercial in which this song featured prominently.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

2018: The Year My Readers Let Me Down

Specifically, none of you guys told me that Wayne Kramer was doing an MC5 fiftieth anniversary tour (as MC50) untill two weeks after the show played New York City. You bastards.


Get on the ball, people!!!

But, as I mentioned the other day, since I love you all more than food, I am thoughtfully reproducing here -- for those of you who don't have subscriptions -- a terrific piece about Kramer from the Dec. 17 2018 issue of The New Yorker.

WAYNE KRAMER AND THE MEANING OF PUNK
The seventy-year-old guitarist from the proto-punk group MC5 revisits the East Village of the eighties.

By Nick Paumgarten

By many lights, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a silly project. Recently, Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden, called it “an utter and complete load of bollocks.” He said, “It’s run by a bunch of sanctimonious bloody Americans who wouldn’t know rock and roll if it hit them in the face.” Evidence, if you want it, can be found in the hall’s failure to enshrine the MC5, who may have been the first real rock-hitting-you-in-the-face band. (They’ve been nominated this year, for the fourth time, but, with the induction announcement likely coming this week, oddsmakers have put their chances below those of better-selling and less face-hitty acts like the Cure and Stevie Nicks.) It was fifty years ago that the MC5 released their proto-punk anthem and album “Kick Out the Jams.” They were five spirited white boys from Detroit who’d been radicalized by the 1967 race rebellion (they joined their mentor, the poet John Sinclair, in establishing the White Panther Party, an adjunct of the Black Panthers).

This fall, the guitarist Wayne Kramer, one of the two surviving MC5s, toured with other musicians as the MC50s. Kramer, now seventy, has also been peddling a memoir, “The Hard Stuff,” which relates the band’s grand ambitions and commercial failures (they broke up in 1972, after just three albums), his own descent into crime and heroin addiction, his years in federal prison (drug trafficking), and his subsequent decades of trying to get his shit right, which (spoiler alert) he has—at least as of today, as he’d say.

Kramer was released from prison in 1979. “I said, If I’m not on the good foot after a year, I gotta leave Detroit,” he recalled the other day. “All my friends and associates were in the life. They were dealing, and they were ripping and running. So I came to New York, where I’d be safe”—big laugh—“here where heroin flowed out of the faucets.”

Kramer was strolling in his old East Village neighborhood, pointing out bygone haunts amid the new condo projects and juice shops. He was wearing Day-Glo-orange running shoes, black jeans, and an expression of perma-delight: survival. Punk had meant one thing in prison but another here, when he turned up to discover that the MC5 were cherished as forebears by the CBGB generation, which had adopted the term. The other MC5 guitarist, Fred (Sonic) Smith, got married in 1980 to Patti Smith and died in 1994.

"I was in this band Gang War with Johnny Thunders, which was another terrible decision,” Kramer said. Thunders, a founder of the New York Dolls, “was in the midst of active opiate abuse, and people in that condition have a prior commitment. I also had a girlfriend who was using. I didn’t have a chance. Red Rodney”— the jazz-trumpet great, who had been in prison with Kramer—“had warned me about that, and he was absolutely right. So, after Thunders was late for rehearsal for the umpteenth time, I told him, If you’re going to cop, pick me up a couple, too. And then I was up to my old tricks.”

215 East Tenth Street: Kramer’s neighborhood beachhead. “Third floor in the front,” he said. “Some judiciously applied grease to the super got me the next available apartment. The storefront across the street was a reefer store.” It’s now a high-end Japanese café. The drugs, and what he considered the industry’s anodyne preferences, kneecapped his attempts to resuscitate his career. Before long, he was homeless. He wound up in an S.R.O. on Lexington Avenue.

“So me and a partner went to work for a couple of brothers who owned buildings all over this neighborhood,” he said, and pointed at one across Avenue A. “We renovated an apartment on the top floor there for a guy I was told was the nephew of Donald Trump.” The job also included a lot of hot-tar roofing. “One day, I had an ‘Aha!’ moment. I found myself both freezing and burning up on a rooftop, my feet stuck in the tar, and I thought, Hey, I used to be an artist. What am I doing?”

He took up woodworking, as an apprentice to a cabinetmaker downstairs from his next apartment, on East Thirteenth Street—now a real-estate brokerage. “Frank Mattiello. He was a music fan. He builds skyscrapers today. And we’re still best friends. He’s the godfather of my son, Francis, who we named after Frank.” Kramer ticked off some old job sites: Oscar de la Renta’s apartment uptown and the Barbizon Hotel. “I added something to this city. It wasn’t all doom and gloom.”

He left New York in 1989, for Key West. “I built a couple houses, and a lot of stuff for Jimmy Buffett. He’s a good boss.” Eventually, Kramer moved to Los Angeles, got married, got sober, and regained some traction in the music business. “Opiates are painkillers, and they kill psychic pain, too,” he said. “But that’s where your ambition comes from: ‘You have to do this thing.’ There were a lot of moves back then I didn’t make.” Still, failure, if you want to call it that, has its rewards. He said, “If we’d been successful, I’d probably be dead.” ♦

It is one of the great regrets of my life that I never saw the MC5 live, but I did meet Kramer in the 80s once at some club in NYC; I don't remember who the act we were seeing was or when exactly this happened, but I do remember that I got to tell him how much I loved the MC5. And, if memory serves, how much I loved his production of the eponymous 1987 album (on Enigma) by The Broadcasters, who remain one of my all time favorite bands of the period.


Upon reflection, we may have been introduced by power pop legend Marc Jonson, and I'm pretty sure it was at the late lamented Kenny's Castaways, but hey -- it was the 80s. We were all pretty much over the top and my recollections may not be reliable.

In any event, The Broadcasters were an absolutely killer band, and although they didn't really sound like the 5, Kramer was obviously a brilliant fit as their producer. Here's the radio hit from the record, which makes the point pretty obvious.



The rest of the album, including a great cover of the 5's cover of Them's "I Can Only Give You Everything," can still be acquired over at Amazon HERE. Or -- if you're really nice to me, I can burn you a copy.





Tuesday, January 01, 2019

New Year's Day's Greatest Hits

[I first posted this one on New Years Day 2013, and, while I'm not trying to turn it in into some kind of internet tradition, I do find it amusing enough to give it the old "One More Time!". --S.S.]

This is, as I have been wont to say here on many previous occasions, a very sad story, so please try not to laugh.

It also has a certain relevance to today's festivities, which will be revealed later in the narrative. Please be patient.

Anyway, so the other day I was in a cab heading down the West Side Highway in a snowstorm, and the driver had the radio tuned to whatever soft-rock Lite FM station they inevitably have on when they don't have WINS News Radio blasting or some guy from Queens yelling about sports.

I wasn't particularly paying attention, but suddenly some soft-rock Lite FM staple song came on, and immediately I knew three things.

1. I had definitely heard it before.

2. It was probably from the 70s or the 80s, although I couldn't rule out the possibility that it might have been more recent, and it had that whole California soft-rock vibe, which I usually detest, in spades.

3. I had no idea who the guy or the group singing it was, although I was painfully aware that when and if I found out I was gonna kick myself. Because pretty much everybody in the world, at least of a certain age, would have been able to recognize it instantly.

The truly insidious part was that there was something about the damn thing that grabbed me. Yes, the vocals had that laid-back L.A. Mr. Sensitive shtick that usually makes my gorge rise. But the tune was charming, the voicings of the harmony parts in the chorus were really quite lovely, and -- try as I might to deny it -- it was getting under my skin.

Fortunately, because of the roar of traffic, I couldn't really hear the lyrics, although one word -- "architect" -- jumped out. "Hmm," I thought. "There's a word you don't hear in a pop song everyday."

Anyway, I then went about the rest of my weekend, but I knew with an absolutely dread certainty that I was gonna break down sooner or later and look the song up on the Intertubes.

So, late on Monday, I googled "Soft Rock song with the word architect in it" and up it popped.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...and my fingers are shaking as I type these words....Dan Fogelberg (the horror, the horror!) and his 1980 smash (which I had apparently put out of my mind, probably deliberately, ever since its original vogue) "Same Old Lang Syne."




Well. In case you're wondering, no -- I have no interest in revisiting the rest of Fogelberg's body of work, and yes, I still basically can't stand the whole genre he represents, but goddamn it -- this damn song works and it gets to me. Like I said, it's melodically quite charming, and now that I've actually deciphered the lyrics, it turns out that -- despite a certain smugness that kind of rankles -- they actually make a pretty good little short story.

And the record's not even a new guilty pleasure, to be honest, because I don't feel particularly guilty about liking it.

Sticks in my craw a bit, though.

As I said, this is a very sad story, so please try not to laugh.

Happy New Year, everybody.

And fuck you, Dan Fogelberg, for your pernicious influence. Wherever you are.

Thank you.